The visit of US President Donald Trump to Japan, especially the first meeting with the royal couple, went off peacefully without any bow or brouhaha over the tricky protocol requirement.
Learning from the mistake of his predecessor Barack Obama, who bowed almost 90 degrees showing his utmost reverence to Japanese Emperor Akihito only to receive flak back home, US President Donald Trump on Sunday managed to avoid the potential controversy but leaned his head upon the Emperor, almost towering over him, thus avoiding a bow.
Taller Trump also managed to smile, shook hands and nodded at the 83-year-old emperor. After the meeting, Trump shook hands again and tapped the emperor's arm gently with his left hand. "Thank you for the great meeting", he told Akihito and said the customary words, "I'm sure we will meet again," reported Reuters.
Trump avoided another protocol blunder that his predecessor Obama had committed during his 2009 visit. He bowed and at the same time shook hands of the Japanese Emperor that was photographed and circulated widely. As per the Japanese tradition, no one touches the emperor but foreign guests do shake hands. Usually, they never bow or do both at the same time as Obama did.
Even Hillary Clinton, as US Secretary of State in 2011, visited the Japanese royal couple and she shook hands and air-kissed Empress Michiko on both cheeks, setting aside protocol.
Otherwise, many Americans or Asian neighbors of Japan resented the Japanese monarchy, especially the wartime Japan under Emperor Hirohito, in whose name World War Two was fought.
The current Emperor Akihito, however, tried to soothe the image to modern times and was the first to marry a commoner. He also became the first to announce abdication of the throne next year in favor of his son, Crown Prince Naruhito.
Japan Monarchy's Protocol at Glance:
Here are some interesting protocol norms associated with the 2000-year-old Japanese monarchy:
-- Japanese never touch the royal family members. In case of medical contingency too, doctors wear gloves and make sure they follow the norms set by the Imperial Agency.
-- The Imperial Family do not attend funerals of commoners, even if they are related. The Emperor and Empress never attend the funeral of lower-ranked Imperial Family members. Their chief chamberlain usually represents them.
-- The Empress can't step on the Emperor's shadow and so the other female members of the Imperial Family in case of their husbands.
-- Male members always walk first with the female members walking behind them. Often they get off their cars first and stand aside and wait for their husbands to get off and they usually bow to them the moment their husbands alight from their cars.
-- Female members cannot speak longer than their husbands during press conferences. Once Princess Masako (wife of Crown Prince Naruhito) was criticised during the engagement press conference for talking more than Naruhito, which was 7 minutes longer.
-- Princess Masako, being a former diplomat was once chided for speaking to US President Bill Clinton in English and Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Russian when she was seated between them.
-- The Emperor and Empress do not attend wedding ceremonies. Even when their own heir-apparent Prince Naruhito married Masako, the couple had the rites first and then visited the Emperor and Empress for the blessing.
-- Imperial Household Agency (IHA) is so powerful that it keeps an eye on every moment of the royal family members. Even Crown Prince Naruhito was not spared when he spoke without "permission" on his wife Masako's difficulties in adjusting to IHA protocol in 2004.
-- Whenever Imperial Family members give interviews on their birthdays or before foreign trips, all questions and answers are "screened" by the IHA and the media should also follow a strict code of conduct.
-- Imperial Family members are not allowed to openly share their preferences. When Crown Prince Naruhito told media that his daughter Princess Aiko loves sumo, he could not reveal more about her favorite sumo wrestlers.